This year I am doing all I can to consider Thanksgiving as a way of life. Perhaps we could call it “ThanksLiving”! Thankfulness is certainly quite easy when all is well; but what about when things are not going so well? Are we to be thankful in those times as well?
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Not only does Paul tell us to give thanks, but he adds the all-important phrase: “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”! Wow! There is no way to hide from that expression!
In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom tells how she discovered just how important it was to give thanks in every situation. Corrie and her sister Betsie had been imprisoned by the Nazis for hiding Jews behind the wall of their Holland home. The Nazi prison conditions were unbearable. Corrie writes this in her book:
Barracks 8 was in the quarantine compound. Next to us–perhaps as a deliberate warning to newcomers– were located the punishment barracks. From there, all day long and often into the night, came the sounds of hell itself. They were not the sounds of anger, or of any human emotion, but of a cruelty altogether detached: blows landing in regular rhythm, screams keeping pace. We would stand in our ten-deep ranks with our hands trembling at our sides, longing to jam them against our ears, to make the sounds stop.
It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy.
In spite of the suffering, the women prisoners in this barracks would gather around Corrie and Betsie and find comfort in the Bible studies they held in the barracks. Corrie writes that these women gathered around the Bible “like waifs clustered around a blazing fire… The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God.”
One day, these women were moved to different barracks, Barracks 28, Corrie was horrified by the fact that their damp, mildewed, moldy straw-bed platforms were also swarming with fleas. How could they live in such a place being bitten continually by those nasty bugs?
Betsie was the one who discovered God’s answer for their situation while she was reading God’s Word one morning. Listen as Corrie continues her story:
Betsie said, “‘Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’ That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”
“Things such as…” I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room…”
Corrie was reluctant to be thankful for anything in their miserable situation, but Betsie was insistent. “Give thanks in all circumstances.” They thanked God for the fact they were together. They thanked God they had a Bible. They even thanked God for the horrible crowds of prisoners, that more people would be able to hear God’s Word. And then, Betsie thanked God for something that Corrie could never have imagined. Betsie thanked God for the fleas! Corrie describes her disgust at such an idea:
The fleas! This was too much. I told her, “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted back to me. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”
It turned out that Betsie was not wrong at all! Only a little while later these two God-fearing women discovered that those irritating fleas were a blessing in disguise! Here is how Corrie tells it:
One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.
“You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” I told her.
“You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” Betsie said. “Well—I’ve found out.”
“That afternoon,” Betsie continued, “there’d been trouble and confusion in their barracks and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it. But the supervisor wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And do you know why, Corrie?”
Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! The supervisor said, “That place is crawling with fleas! I refuse to go in there!”
My mind rushed back to our first hour in Barracks 28. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, and remembered her giving thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.
Betsie was right! Give thanks for the fleas! Betsie and Corrie discovered that it was the fleas that kept those supervisors out. Through those fleas, God protected the women from abuse and torture that others in the prison camp experienced. And it was because of those fleas that many desperate women were free to hear the comforting, hope-giving Word of God in Barracks 28!
Give thanks at all times and in every situation! Even for fleas!
Throughout the Bible, there is an abundant supply of living showcases revealing the importance of being thankful in EVERY situation!
There is King Jehoshaphat who, when faced with a battle of impossible odds, marched a choir in the front ranks, armed only with their voices and a simple song:
“Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever”
(2 Chron 20:21 NIV)..
You can almost hear those choir members, “What’s this king doing? What kind of battle is fought with singers? He’s lost his mind!” Yet, what a miraculous victory was won that day!
Jonah chose a very strange place to offer up a “sacrifice with the voice of thanksgiving” – in the belly of that great fish at the bottom of the sea! He had messed up and was in quite a predicament, but the moment he gave thanks, God gave that fish a belly ache and Jonah soon found himself on dry land once again! (Jonah 2:1-10)!
Job certainly was having a couple of bad days, too. Nevertheless, he chose to lift up his eyes and bless God: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). The result?
“Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before…. Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…” (Job 42:10,12).
Habakkuk was living in very difficult times and he had lots of questions for God, yet he understood how important it was to rejoice and be thankful in spite of his contrary circumstances. In fact, he decided it was the perfect time to write a song about it:
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.
The Psalms are given to us in God’s Word to showcase the harvests of blessing and favor that satiate the life of one who purposefully chooses to be filled with praise and gratitude toward God at all times and in every circumstance. Every deeply plowed furrow in the Book of Psalms is sown generously with the seeds of thanksgiving which never fail to produce a bountiful harvest. Here are a few of my favorites:
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever (Psalms 30:12 NKJV).
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High (Psalms 92:1 NKJV)
And Psalms 107 puts the icing on the cake. Three separate situations are described in which men are going through difficult times – and are even at “their wit’s end”. But God rescues them and then this statement is made:
Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! (Psalms 107:8 NKJV)
So that settles it, right? Being thankful at all times, in every situation, and in every circumstance is without doubt the “will of God in Christ Jesus”! It’s His divine will for us right here and right now! There is no need to wait until we see how things turn out. Let’s do it right now – in whatever circumstance we find ourselves! Let’s “give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and His wonderful works to the children of men!” Amen!